Congratulations to Ph.D. student, Leonardo Calzada  for winning the Fulbright-National Geographic Scholarship. Calzada primarily focuses on researching the interplay between human and ecological communities within tropical forests. His primary objective is to untangle the potential impacts of state-driven conservation and development interventions on this interaction. 

When asked about how he was going to use the scholarship, Calzada said: 

“I plan to use the grant to fund various aspects of my research project in the Calakmul-Sian Ka'an Biological Corridor in the Yucatan Peninsula. This includes collecting ecological data at the forest plot level, conducting interviews and focus groups, and developing spatial models for estimating forest degradation at a regional scale. Specifically, the funds will allow for in-depth engagement with three local communities (Petcacab, Flores Magon, and Laguna Om), students from the Zoh Laguna Forestry High School, and research groups at UNAM, thus enhancing the overall impact and scope of the project. This involves organizing community meetings, sharing experiences, and presenting a scientific outreach document to inform communities about forest change over the last 20 years and its relationship to the implementation of the agroforestry and poverty alleviation policy called Sembrando Vida and the construction of the Mayan Train megaproject. By fostering meaningful interactions and collaborations, the grant will contribute to a more complete understanding of the social-ecological systems in the Yucatan.

On the topic of what will his fieldwork in Mexico focus on, Calzada explained: 

“The focal point of the fieldwork in Mexico will be the Calakmul-Sian Ka'an Biological Corridor, with a multifaceted set of objectives. My research will involve creating regional forest degradation and biomass maps spanning from 2000 to 2023, integrating satellite imagery and ecological data. Additionally, the project will encompass semi-structured interviews with farmers in three distinct agrarian communities. These interviews aim to gather comprehensive information on the anticipated future effects of Sembrando Vida and the Mayan Train, the emergence of visions regarding forests, alterations in institutions associated with forest access, and the influences of various drivers on landscape change. After conducting interviews, my project will employ q-methodology to understand how visions emerge and form coalitions, thereby influencing the creation of new institutional structures and agencies. Further enriching the study, focus groups will be facilitated to discuss land use regime shifts connected to the regional South-Southeast integrated development strategy. The culmination of the fieldwork involves the development of a spatially explicit model, intertwining actor perspectives, biophysical and socioeconomic drivers, and regional biomass estimates to understand landscape changes in the future.”

Calzada also shared more information on his plans for the future (study, research, or work-wise):

“In the long term, my goal is to become a geography professor and contribute to the understanding of complex interactions between socio-political processes in Latin America, common property, and tropical ecosystem change. The grant and the collaboration with National Geographic will play a crucial role in achieving this goal. It will allow me to conduct long-term research and disseminate findings in a clear and accessible manner. The grant's support in developing an integrative dissemination document, in collaboration with students and research groups, ensures that the project's outcomes reach a broader audience, including local communities and policymakers. This approach intends to make a meaningful difference in academic and local contexts.”

More Information: Here

Leonardo is also one of the CLAS graduate student research grant recipients of 2023. He will be presenting his research at the March 1st CLAS Research Symposium. More information on the symposium is coming soon. 

fullbright Scholarship